In a provocative op-ed for VentureBeat, journalist Chris O’Brien was highly critical of Twitter.
By the time the article was published, O’Brien had already taken two hiatuses from social media, and reserved the right to do so in the future. Many of O’Brien’s fellow journalists and thought leaders have done the same; some have quit social media in general (and Twitter in particular) altogether.
Not everyone has the luxury of opting out of the conversation, however. Indeed, Twitter remains an indispensable resource for a wide range of business users, for whom it’s an effective prospecting tool and unmatched means of keeping a finger on the proverbial pulse.
If you have no personal plans to opt out of Twitter, consider lending your voice to the cause of making the platform more civilized and productive for its rank-and-file. Let these five rules of thumb guide you.
1. Stake Out a Subject and Make It Your Own
Embrace the concept of subject matter expertise. On Twitter, you don’t need to be an expert about everything. You only need to opine on what you’re truly qualified to evaluate. This isn’t just good for the overall tenor of your Twitter interactions; it’s also great for your personal brand.
2. Tweet About What You Know
A corollary to staking out subject matter expertise: tweeting about what you know on a consistent basis. This tenet doesn’t entirely overlap, since you “know” more than the scope of your expertise. For instance, this financial advisor’s Twitter handle doesn’t only tweet about financial matters, but it’s clear as day that it’s a knowledge-based account.
3. Don’t Feel the Need to Engage
When in doubt, let cooler heads prevail. In practice, this means disengaging when your instincts tell you to engage. As the old Twitter adage goes, “don’t feed the trolls.” Indeed, nourishment only makes them stronger.
4. Use Visual Media Wherever Appropriate
Twitter is no Instagram, but its utility as a visual medium is sorely understated. Get in the habit of alternating text-only tweets with primarily visual content, such as impromptu candid videos and photos of interesting things you encounter in your travels. Such content is far more likely to draw meaningful engagement than boring old status updates.
5. Employ “Positive” Mentions Only
If you’re going to mention a fellow Twitter user in a tweet, make sure it’s a positive mention. There’s no need to throw unnecessary shade; if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all.
Toward a More Temperate Twitter
Twitter is a massive social media platform with hundreds of millions of active users and plenty more who, under the right circumstances, might be willing to come back into the fold. By virtue of its size alone, it’s simply not going to change overnight.
That doesn’t mean Twitter users stuck in a love-hate relationship with the platform have no recourse; nowhere is it written that they must resign themselves to muddling through. Indeed, Twitter needs users willing to go to bat for its unique value proposition and compelling features — to work, in short, toward a more temperate Twitter that lives up to the platform’s original promise.
The work ahead won’t be easy. But it’s more important than ever. What will you do to contribute?